Mister Father gets sad reading me, but he will comfort himself, for he has a tendency to frivolity, it allows one to live and when one gets old, it becomes a privilege. We retrace the course of our lives in search of the dead and we stroll along the streets where I accompanied her back then. Paris has not changed much since the year 1929, a hundred times we find again places we knew and I become the mystagogue and the hermeneut, I lead Mister Father from altar to altar and from shrine to shrine and I communicate my science to him, a geography of memories and symbols.


Madam Mother and I lived together and although we were set apart during the period of my education, we mended this divorce and we never left each other again, we were never seen one without the other and some people took offense at it while others made fun of it. During these forty-four years, we haunted each other more than five or six intimates do in a century; as to our embracements, they confined to statistics and sometimes I grew a bit tired of them, I would compare her nose to the bronze Saint Peter’s foot in Rome, worn out by some millions of lips, I happened to sprain one or two of her ribs.


I teach Mister Father about the sacred places where Mother and Son used to stroll together and to do their shopping, I reveal topics of conversations and solemnly communicate some enlightenments unknown to him. We take our place a few steps from the statue of Lamartine and eventually we take seats in the purlieu of the Bois,** a hundred steps away from the castle turned Council of Europe, Madam Mother is evoked at each turn of the road and figures of her literally people the accidents of the landscape, I see myself surrounded by Mothers in dozens, they come from everywhere and are of all ages.


Time has taken a new dimension, it used to run like a mountain torrent and here it is, suddenly close to immobility in an immense plain, the course of the river has no limits anymore, hours that used to follow each other restlessly crawl limply only to languish on their way and sometimes going backward, we feel a dizziness the nature of which evades analysis and gives us a foretaste of the eternal: this is the work of the past that resurrects and, braking the flow of duration, multiplies us through the identity that assembles us. Thus Madam Mother, dead, is fulfilling us.


Mister Father is convinced: Madam Mother is with us. Madam Mother protects us, he would gladly make a goddess of her. Why disturb him in the articles of his faith? This is not my sentiment, the dead are dead, but we live so they be not annihilated, our deeds and our works can inspire themselves of their conduct and perpetuate their memory, this shall never go further. Madam Mother, with all her qualities, is not worth the picture I am drawing of her and I admit it: my judgment is turning into an apotheosis and I become the captive of the visions I raise, I am caught and never more approving myself of being so.


She never knew she was going to die, she wanted to heal and to live, she was still making projects a few weeks before her passing, she talked about making a trip to Switzerland and buying a nice apartment on Victor Hugo Avenue, she even got upset, scolding us for keeping her at the Hospital, she felt weak, but she was in no pain whatever, drugs were working, procuring her the illusion she was not sick, she was slipping away from us and we did not always recognize her. Alas! She did not enjoy the last bliss of the dying, she did not live her life again, her life that, despite the torments, was not unhappy.


In the month of May, the physicians held a chapter at home and having condemned her for the last time, as a body they went to reassure Madam Mother and swear to her that all in all she had nothing serious. They were three putting their science together, others had preceded them, others were going to follow. Madam Mother listened to them and did not doubt their words, she still ate with a good appetite, her figure could look the part, she would still read the gazette and chatter wittily, she would stroll indoors and send me fetch powders, makeup, creams and lotions, plus varied trifles.


I was committed to wash her head, she had lost half of that hair of hers that everyone envied, it was blond and naturally curly, hence she could do without a hairdresser. Drugs got the better of this hair, she deplored it and I did not deplore it any less than her, seeing the emaciation of her neck of which I failed to count the vertebrae. During these days, she evoked her childhood, for an extraordinary moment that never came back: she mimicked the shouts of the little peddlers of Constantinople who went from house to house, accompanied with their little donkeys.


With an expression of unspeakable happiness that still affects me, she retraced these little nothings, as I am writing this a lump tightens my throat. It seems to me that suffering does not go as far as perfect felicity does and Madam Mother felt the second as a reward for her dispositions that made her lovable to the highest degree. Madam Mother was, I grant it, a tormented soul, but she carried her remedies and her satisfactions had the strengths her afflictions had not, I feel that I was one of those remedies and that my getting married would have left her disconsolate for good.


This month of May was by far the most tragic, it was then that I lost Madam Mother and not in early September, for this was not her any longer. Back then we had our last moment of intimacy, I was holding her hands in my right hand, the left one resting on her forehead: for she still breathed with some ease. The same day I had gone to Lamy-Trouvain,*** after having run through the Bois, the prey to the thoughtless movement of affliction I was struggling with, it was surprisingly hot and the sun did not shine with the same strength until Thursday, September 12, when she was incinerated.


I was well aware that, once dead, Madam Mother would live again in me, I who deemed her throes endless from this month of May on, I who made wishes that she would expire as soon as possible, before the horrid decay preceding the end, when she no longer stood up and suffered from languishing supine. Then I dared not look at her, lest this image take the place of a thousand others, I cursed our morals that oblige us to revere what ought to be abridged. The lovely woman deserved to die quietly and not to be unmade amid her helpless and cold physicians…


Would one say it? My childhood memories do not move me and my early twenty years leave me more or less indifferent: it is true that Madam Mother had me raised by several governesses who followed each other in the position, they were usually spinsters, rather cultured and very well-mannered, and thanks to whom I was able to teach my dear parents a few lessons on courtesy. For more than fourteen years I would only go out with Madam Mother on holidays or during vacation, only seeing her a couple of hours every other night.


Is Madam Mother dead? For now, nothing has changed. Madam Mother could come back, her bed seems to be waiting for her, her armoire and her wardrobe, her chest of drawers and her chiffonier, her coats and her dresses, her linen, her trinkets and baubles. Beings pass and things stay. Madam Mother knew it, Madam Mother would say it and I would answer that the second ones have more value in the eyes of the State, my reasons would sadden her but she granted their accurateness, it is less expensive to call a thousand children to life than to maintain a ramshackle castle or to restore paintings in a gallery.


The life of things scared her and their solidity disconcerted her, she felt threatened in the midst of so many impassible objects, but what? those objects in turn will bear witness to her, they will somewhat partake of her nature. Madam Mother had humanized them, I feel that we are going to keep them for quite some time. Madam Mother died on the threshold of old age, at almost sixty-two years-old, she looked like she was in her fifties at most and younger in her best days, she still would have become a little old woman, she still would have suffered from it and all her philosophy did not prevent her from reasoning as a woman.


I like neither pain nor enjoyment, the world of woman may charm me yet it does not convince me, the woman present in my Mother never attracted me, my depths are impassible, I hate desire and fear, Madam Mother was not unadmiring of those dispositions, she saw in them the source of my freedom. Death will not shake me for long, since nothing affects me any longer and Madam Mother carries away the remnant of my anxieties, her end completes my liberation and I see but order under my feet, chaos dissipates, light is everywhere and I feel like a tranquil assurance arising in me.


Soon I will no longer have the leisure to think about Madam Mother, works and days go reasserting themselves, I will reenter into them out of lassitude and the memory of the dead will fade into a symbol. Madam Mother saved me from women and I thank her for that, she freed me from the weight of fatality, which makes the spirit a slave and happy to be so, from now on I will be what I could not be under her, and the eternal child I seemed to be as long as she was alive is finishing perishing alongside her. I think two dead are going to be burnt together: what I was for her, she takes it with her and I am grateful that she freed me from it.


Pain is everywhere and the first duty is to avoid it, it is the change for love, love and pain walk on one line, the less we love and the less we are threatened, by nature love degenerates into trembling, then we learn to tremble for others and we carry the chains of worry. Our destinies slumber in the eyes of the most innocent virgins, in the shadow of the loveliest girls serfdom walks in arms, the illusion is born again with each generation and the embraces perpetuate it, for centuries and millennia the only remedy has been in continence.


Women are our enemies, mothers are no exception to this saddening rule, mothers are for setting us free from women, works are for setting us free from mothers, works are the daughters of Spirit, works get out of our heads like Pallas. We owe respect to women, we owe them politeness infinitely, those who blame them fall under their heels and those who tear them apart do not fail to crawl at their feet: we will honor them to better avoid them, we will incense them to better cast them away and we will deify them to better crush them under their symbol.


I feel that she comes back to me not as a tearful ghost, but as a helpful friend, it seems to me that I have one extra dimension since she died. Madam Mother completed me, Madam Mother did not abandon me, the idea has taken her place and in me the power of the idea works the only necessary miracle, it is not Our Lady that I worship, yet I resemble those devotees and I forgive their confusion, it is a form of Catholicism and I realize it. We know it: does not every son have a mother to lose? The epiphany that dawns upon me, I fear it may lead me where I would not go.


One of our last strolls before the bleeding fit after which she did not leave her bedroom was the Musée Moderne and its portico, in addition to the Passerelle Debilly. Madam Mother watched the narrowboats, some sailing up the Seine heavily burdened and almost at water level, others sailing down the river, high like as many houses and empty. It was hot, although it was October, a man there, lean and naked was catching the sun, the same I saw this Monday of September, about eleven months later, he still lives and the one, who smiled as she made me notice his leanness, is dead.


Madam Mother had accustomed to walk with me, crossing and recrossing the bridge where the air is quite brisk, but this time she insisted that I went alone and she remained the entire time seated on a big rock delimiting the Promenade on the left bank. This rock and the one opposite have been replaced by a concrete ramp, I felt somewhat sad about it, for I promised myself I would sit there. I remember that we walked back through the Musée’s portico where, in the middle of some hundred onlookers, a tall man was waltzing, ecstatic, on roller skaters, while a wind-up phonograph was playing music.


Madam Mother liked this original, and I will owe him for entertaining her, he would put his ancient phonograph on the altar set in the middle of this Musée’s yard and would turn in circles around it in a rapture that would not break for a minute, he would see no body and all eyes would attach to his. My reader will ask why my memories usually stop on the threshold of the year ’53? This is because during my childhood and my teen years I was not myself, I was dreaming and not living, I remember little of Madam Mother as I was confounded in her, in the shadow of her dusk.


One week has passed since Madam Mother deceased and this was the longest week of my life, to me it will have lasted I cannot reckon how many months, I do not find myself alone, but in truth multiplied, I find myself with my hands full, a presence by my side and in my being a light. The dead has poured on me the gifts I dared not wait from anyone, the void she had left is filling with overwhelming graces and ceaseless favors. Good Madam Mother, I thank you, you revealed to me what I believed impossible and your mission is continued through mine.


It is easy to be chaste in the surprising state in which I am, I am like those devotees of Our Lady attached to the service of the idea and I resemble Goethe’s Doctor Marianus. Reason has not come down where Mothers are, by the same token its genius recoils at any kind of sublime, its role is to keep the middle way and for that we value it, Reason is not enough for me in these September days, I will find it again tomorrow, I go down to the Mothers’ place and I come back up in turns where Mater Gloriosa hovers, this is a mystical breathing and of which the perpetual stake is my reason to live from now on.


I transcended Madam Mother and I basically gave myself another Mother in Heaven, I wanted to be an orphan and in spite of myself I became the Son again, I consent to my destiny and I am not ignorant that it is enviable, I went through to the Archetype where motherhood is enclosed, I saw the source in the night and I understood that I was not alone any more, I was afraid of loneliness by Madam Mother’s side, Madam Mother confided me into other hands, those hands now are resting upon my head, this was akin to an unexpected resurrection I the first would have laughed at erstwhile.


Forgive me this clarifications, but the remedy to pain lies in transcendence and no pain resists it, the path is not long and the purpose of our virtues is to shorten it, the reward of virtues lies in the disposition they impress on our habits and since most of the time we subsist thanks to the latter, eventually our habits will neutralize our least natural virtues, we are transformed and we discover it at the result, the movement that transforms us eludes us, at last we ripen and go through insensible courses from the state of Nature to the state of Grace.


Mister Father may not understand this manner of speaking, he has suffered much nonetheless, he has been sitting by her bedside and for months, he lost fifteen pounds at this game, the poor man was only a shadow of himself and his nights were spent in tremors, he would get up from twelve to fifteen times during the worst crises, I was afraid to lose him before Madam Mother and I insisted for her to be committed to the Hospital, I had a hard time convincing the sick woman, she would have died two months earlier should she have stayed here. I wanted to save at least one of my parents, since the other was to succumb anyway.


As long as Madam Mother was alive I was afraid to lose her, nothing more deplorable than her death can happen to me, the calmness I am feeling is rather frightful. Madam Mother had reached her sixties and I am over forty, I thank Providence for making an orphan of me only at manhood, I am not at liberty to complain, my sorrow will fade, my pain will abate, I will go back to duty and what was will remain, what in my past is taking form will not die as a whole, time is suspended to be found again, the hour teaches me that I have no other task.


All mothers worthy of the name, all mothers are alike as they reflect the Archetype, it is the Archetype that we revere in them, it has perfections the individual as she is does not contain though the individual be awe-inspiring when considered for herself. Madam Mother, a remarkable individual, referred me to the Archetype and made an Eternal Mother present to me: thus the individual may disappear, she does not drag Mater Gloriosa in her death, the cloud hovers, the plaything of winds and the Archetype she would hide from time to time remains in place for ever.


There are others who give preference to the individual, they deem the individual irreplaceable, they profess her absolute reality, no archetype will console them on their loss and though their passion pleases me, their reasoning, according to me, fails at the very basis. In the individual there are traits that repel us just as there are shadows that make us shudder, no one here below is adorable from day to day and from dawn to dusk, passion must not forever hide the evidence from us, disillusionment will be as strong as passion was blind. Perfection is contained in the Archetype, it is the Archetype we love through the individual.


** The Bois de Boulogne, a park in the 16th arrondissement of Paris where the Caracos lived [TN].

*** A funeral home (NT).

About the Translator

Romain P. A. Delpeuch is the author of Hypnagogia (Terror House Press, 2023). He earned his MA in Philosophy (2015, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne) with a thesis on Albert Caraco, and he holds an MA in English Studies (2019, Université Bordeaux Montaigne). He lives in France.


For all installments from Post Mortem, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Parts 1-30
  2. Parts 31-60